The Pearson 422 is the last of a series of four variations (390, 419, 424, 422) on a same basic Bill Shaw hull design. With her center cockpit and centerline queen aft, she is the most prized. Pearson produced 39 hulls from 1982 to 1986. Years ago we sold a 422 which attracted unforgettable interest. A broker in-house says, “If only we could clone that boat. The number of showings, the calls were unbelievably. I’ve never seen anything like it.” The 422 is one sought after design. In 1959, the Pearson cousins, Everett and Clinton, introduced the first mass produced fiberglass sailboat, the Triton 28. It was a hit, and Pearson Yachts quickly expanded. In 1961, Grumman bought the company and funded ever increasing production. They introduced a flurry of classic designs like the 35 Alberg and 44 Countess. By 1966, corporate politics forced out both the cousins. Bill Shaw took over. In the late 1960’s, he finished up the cousins’ designs and planned for his own. Then, Shaw started reshaping Pearson in his vision.
In 1972, he started on the 390/419/424/422 series introducing the 390 model. She was an aft cockpit design primarily for the charter trade. They built about 30 hulls. They stopped production in 1974 and reworked the mold to be more owner friendly. The 390 only had a single v-berth stateroom forward. In 1975, they introduced the next in the series, the 419. She was a center cockpit design as popular at that time. In 1977, demand switched to aft cockpit designs. Pearson redid the deck mold and started producing the most successful design of the series, the 424. Finally in 1983, Pearson decided make both aft and center cockpit versions. They kept the 424 and added the 422.
The Pearson 422 is the type of classic look combined with a modern interior with attracts people. People wishing for a more natural look than the Hunters of the day but with the same accommodations are searching for the Pearson 422. Her beamy, somewhat awkward lines do not overwhelm you at first. But the look grows on you like a pungent cheese until you acquire a taste for her plain lines. The 422 has the same exact hull as the 424 with a center cockpit deck mold. She has a fin keel with a skeg hung rudder, flat transom, subtle sheerline, and raked bow. A lovely island girl looked at a Pearson 422 with me one time. She quietly murmured, “Oh, she’s so pretty.” The teak touches on deck give her a sweet style. They come in mostly sloop but also rare ketch versions.
Pearson Yachts was the original maker of fiberglass and has a good New England reputation for fine craftsmanship. The yard quality was constant from the beginning with first class build quality and manufacturing techniques. The 422 hull is thick and sound with a solid hull to deck joint, keel stepped mast, and encapsulated ballast. Unlike most yachts of this era who have balsa cores, the deck is solid glass. The interior is beautiful teak joinery work. One issue mentioned by the now defunct Pearson 422 owner’s group is the aluminum fuel tanks one on each side. I am not familiar with tank issues on these yachts and doubt this is an issue. They were constructed of .090″ thickness aluminum which is thinner than the recommended thickness of .125″ by ABYC. It is interesting to note here that while I have have always considered stainless steel a better tank material, ABYC recommends aluminum as a safer and longer lasting alternative.
What To Look For
The Pearson 422 shares build characteristics with the popular 424 which has an active owners association with feedback on the general benefits and issues with these models. The most common critiques are leaky portholes and hatches. Check for water damage on the veneer around the portholes and hatches. Restoring water damaged veneer is more difficult than you might think. It can be nearly impossible to match the grain and color of the veneer on 30 year old classic yachts. Instead, installing white vertical staving will brighten up the interior and hide the wrinkled veneer. The cabin sole is a thin veneer and easily beat up. Other issues that come up are standard older yacht problems. You are buying a 30 year yacht and most of what you will experience just comes with the territory.
There is a handy aft lazarette. A propane locker is along the starboard side amidships. But the 422 has no other deck storage besides these lazarettes. The cockpit does not have any deep lockers. The cockpit does have unique cockpit steps, one on each side, which hinge up to completely enclose the cockpit. Otherwise they lock down providing an easy step. “Let me show you a design flaw. See the cockpit scuppers,” motioned a captain on a 422. He explained that while they looked large that as the pipe goes down it turns and at the turn the piping gets smaller and often clogs. The owner replaced the whole length full width and never had a problem since.
The center cockpit deck layout opens up the interior for an aft stateroom with private head. The gorgeous centerline queen aft is the best part of the 422. The walkthrough is portside with a worktable alongside and nav station at the end. Amidships, the galley is starboard and saloon forward. All the way forward, she has a guest head and a V-berth. Headroom is 6’4″ in the center tapering to 6’0″ at the sides. I showed a 422 to one client. He told me, “You know I really like this boat. Thanks for showing her to me. I have to look again and rethink this. I really like her.” Not a person that I have shown a 422 has not really liked the design. The biggest attraction is the centerline queen aft – a can’t miss with wives, young captains, and old sailors alike.
The original engine was a Westerbeke 58 or 60 HP with a Walter V-drive or possibly a similar Perkins model. Hopefully, the boat has been repowered with a Yanmar 4JHE or better. One client looked at the engine and noted how deep the engine is in the bilge. “Wow she’s really far down in there, huh? And the access is not that great. You would have to take off this part” and he pointed to the companionway front. He was right. The engine access could be better. In fact, the whole engine setup her worst part. If you look at the underbody, the propeller shaft is mighty long. Watch out when you haul because the space between the skeg and propeller is hard to catch. The Pearson 422 is a boat where you really ought to have sling locations marked on the hull or at least a photo.
While under motor towards Port Everglades on a Spring day in 2010, famous surveyor (and recently fallen) Henry Mustin noted to me, “These are surprisingly fast boats.” He spoke from a wealth of 50 years experience surveying all types of sailboats and the best selling author of the surveying bible, “The Guide to Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats” which proudly I own a copy beside my desk and refer to often. The owner concurred, “People don’t believe it but hot diggity she is fast. She doesn’t look like much but she is a racing machine. I like to go fast, and she’ll do 6-7 knots easy. You wouldn’t believe it.” Another broker chimes in, “Oh yes, these boats can sail.” Her fin keel and skeg rudder give her better performance than full keeled comparables. As we motored through the 17th Street Causeway bridge and turned toward the great blue sea with a nice stiff breeze, what a fun seatrial I knew this would be!
In 1985, Grumman sold Pearson to a private group who quickly stopped production of the 422. In 1991, Pearson went out of business. These days Everett Pearson, the co-founding cousin owns the Pearson brand and runs TPI who produce J boats. Notable problems with Pearson 422’s after 20 years are regular old age issues. Check for leaky portholes. They should have repowered engines, new rigging. Overall, these boats are great Caribbean cruisers with their 5′6″ draft, have gorgeous centerline queen berths aft, and attractive classic lines. Pearson 422′s go for around $100,000.